The pros and cons of Mack Brown’s second stint at UNC.
When you take over a football program that lost 13 of its last 18 games, it obviously comes with problems that need to be fixed. But Mack Brown is optimistic that nine losses in each of the last two seasons can turn into victories sooner than later.
Brown acknowledges that he has inherited a better roster than he did back in 1988 – how could he not, since his first two Tar Heel teams finished 1-10. But he also admits that Larry Fedora’s recruiting had dropped off the last two years and it may take two recruiting classes to truly challenge for the ACC Coastal Division.
And his first class, put together on the fly due to the two-year-old football early signing period, is good, but not great. The early signing date was instituted when Brown was president of the college coaches association, and most coaches like it. But it puts new hires like Brown into scramble mode for the three weeks after returning to UNC.
Brown says his second class, with future 2020 high school graduates, is on the brink of being great. He has 12 commitments so far, four of them rated with four stars. He joked that a bunch more are right on the edge of the cliff and ready to jump in, and he wishes they would go ahead and take the leap.
What, frankly, he didn’t expect was a group of returning players who might have been battered on the field to come back with such good habits. New strength coach Brian Hess, who arrived from Army set to instill toughness in the team, claims the players have worked surprisingly hard so far and are plenty tough.
Mack also didn’t anticipate having three quarterbacks battling in training camp for the starting position and important back-up role. One of the kids he flipped from Florida State, Monroe, North Carolina, native Sam Howell, has the most hype. But Brown says returning red-shirt freshmen Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder have the overall skills to compete with Howell.
And Mack wants two game-ready quarterbacks because injuries are so prevalent in today’s college football. He recalls his early UNC days of rotating QBs Jason Stanicek and Mike Thomas. Two of his three young pups should only turn out to be that good.